French Violins – The Three Wise Men

French violins are among some of the most popular old violins today. Among the more famous French luthiers of note were J.B. Vuillaume, Nicolas Lupet, and Charles Francois Gand. Let’s take a brief biographical look at each of these three French and the techniques they used in their craft.

In Mirecourt in 1798, J.B Vuillame was born. He was associated with Pique and often worked with Francoise Chanot. It had come to his attention that new violins were not as favorable as old violins. In order to profit off of this public preference, Vuillame made many copies of Stradivarius violins. He not only replicated the varnish, but even details such as the label. Often, Vuillame would travel around Italy looking for old wood and furniture with which he could build more authentic looking violins. Some people today think that their violin is a famous “Messiah Strad”, but it may well be that it is only one of Vuillame’s copies. One can determine if a violin is a Vuillame if it has more French characteristics than Italian. One of the most intriguing and controversial enigmas to this day is the mysterious violin’s real identity.

Nicolas Lupot was born in 1758 and was called the “French Stradivarius”. Lupot established a workshop in Paris in 1798. He was appointed violin maker to the King in 1815 and to the Conservatoire de Paris in 1816. His French violins imitated Stradivari more minutely than anybody else had or ever has done to date. Lupot died in 1824.

In 1802, Charles Francoise Gand was apprenticed to Nicolas Lupot in Paris. His French violins are known for their brilliant and textured varnish. Lupot’s use of beautifully flamed wood in the backs of his instruments also contributed to their popularity. Besides making wonderful violins for the violinists of his day, Lupot himself was considered quite a good violinist in his own right as well.